The Tale of the Great Schmoe Mailing

Great marketing professionals have lots of experience, and they get that experience by occasionally making mistakes. Here is one of those tales of woe: The Tale of the Great Schmoe Mailing. Names of the people and firms involved have been changed to protect the guilty.

Mailer X once updated its customer database, which ran parallel to the accounting database. Unfortunately, somebody in accounting had plugged an empty field with the name “Joe Schmoe.”

When the update was made, the wrong field was selected for the last name and hundreds of thousands of catalogs were sent out — to Jane Schmoe, Mary Schmoe, Tom Schmoe, etc.

But contrary to conventional wisdom, this gave the mailer an 8% lift in dollars-per-book book compared to those mailed with the correct name. Most of that lift came from the one-time buyers – this segment saw an increase of more than 200%.

Of course, I don’t recommend deliberately making changes such as this one, as it could backfire and lead to depressed response. But it does point up both the marketing power of the inkjet area and the potential for data to become destructive.

Lesson learned: Proof a file sample from the service bureau during the merge process, as well as samples from the inkjet simulations.

Bill Nicolai is a senior partner at San Rafael, CA-based catalog consultancy Lenser.

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